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We’ve provided answers to a few frequently asked questions about the Sydney Modern Project.

What is the Sydney Modern Project?

The Sydney Modern Project is the working title for the expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Sydney Modern vision is to create a global art museum for a global city with new and expanded spaces for art, live performance and film along with spaces to learn, study and participate in cultural experiences.

Why does the Gallery want to expand?

The Gallery has not had a significant expansion in more than 30 years and current spaces are working beyond their capacity. Expansion of the Gallery will ensure we can display more art that can be experienced by more people. It will also ensure we can better meet evolving visitor expectations and create a sustainable future for the State’s public gallery, remaining competitive nationally and internationally.

Does the name ‘Sydney Modern’ mean the new Gallery will focus on modern art?

The name ‘Sydney Modern Project’ is the working title for the expansion of the Art Gallery of New South Wales. It embodies the vision of the Gallery to create a global art museum. The expanded Gallery, together with the new and existing buildings, will be able to display more of our existing collection, showcase Australia’s and the world’s best art exhibitions and further develop creative partnerships with galleries, artists, students and communities across the globe.

Is a new building being built or are you extending the existing building?
The Sydney Modern Project will involve the creation of a new landmark building designed by international architects SANAA, which together with the existing Gallery building will form an expanded Gallery. The new building consists of a series of elegant pavilions that seamlessly merge with their surrounding landscape.

Where will the new building be?

The Sydney Modern Project will enhance the underutilised site to the north of the existing Gallery, comprising two grassed concrete platforms – one over the Cahill Expressway and the other over two disused former World War II oil tanks.

Who owns the project site?

The project site is split across three public entities: the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust, Roads and Maritime Services, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales. The Sydney Modern Project does not impact land within the Royal Botanic Gardens and we are working closely with our government colleagues to ensure our plans and aspirations for the precinct are aligned.

Can you tell me more about the oil tanks?

Part of the Gallery’s expansion will involve adaptive re-use of two disused former World War II oil tanks that make up part of the project site. Adaptive re-use of these tanks will enable public access to a significant State asset, which has been inaccessible to the public for decades. It will also provide NSW with new contemporary art space like no other in Australia. We look forward to revealing more as we finalise the design concept.

What are the benefits of an expanded Gallery?

There will be a range of benefits the project aims to deliver including:

  • Significant increase in exhibition space to display more of NSW’s extraordinary art collection and provide a more complete story of Australian art in an international context
  • Enable NSW to host more of the world’s and Australia’s best art exhibitions
  • Wider economic benefit to the NSW economy of over $1 billion over the next 25 years and the creation of up to 242 full-time jobs in NSW
  • Increase visitation from an average of 1.2 million visitors to over 2 million visitors per year
  • Double school student visits to 200,000 per year
  • Delivery of an architectural landmark designed by internationally-renowned architects SANAA that will deliver economic and cultural dividend for the State
  • Create a new prominent destination showcasing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander art and culture that is front and centre in the new building
  • New dedicated spaces and facilities for learning and participation with innovative and interactive programs
  • Enhanced digital capabilities to expand visitor engagement with schools, regional communities, artists and visitors
  • Become the heart of the city’s eastern cultural precinct, from the Australian Museum to the Sydney Opera House linking with the Royal Botanic Gardens and Woolloomooloo

What is the artistic vision for the expanded Gallery?

The Sydney Modern Project will build on the Gallery’s long history of artistic innovation and leadership, by boldly celebrating Australian and international art. Through the connection of art, architecture and landscape the new building will create experiential and responsive art experiences that are in dialogue with reflective art histories presented in the Gallery’s existing building. Together, the two buildings will create a flexible, compelling and inspiring exploration of art and culture.

How is the project being funded?

The expansion of the Gallery is being jointly funded by public and private contributions. The NSW Government has allocated $244 million to the project’s construction. Over the past two years the Gallery has also developed a capital campaign, which will be officially launched later this year. Of the $100 million to be raised as part of the campaign, $70 million has already been pledged by private donors. We appreciate the continued support of our generous benefactors, and their passion for the project, as we realise our expansion vision.

What is the project cost?

The total construction cost of the project is $344 million, made up of $244 million NSW Government funding and the $100 million we aim to raise from private donations, $70 million of which has already have pledged by private donors. The project budget covers construction of the Gallery’s extension, limited modifications to the existing building and associated fees.

Why is the project cost different to the $450 million figure I’ve seen in the media?

The original cost estimate of $450 million included a broader range of upgrades and scheduled maintenance to the Gallery’s existing building. These are now being considered independently to the Sydney Modern Project and the Gallery continues to work with Government on the matter. The total construction cost of the project is $344 million.

  • Who is the Sydney Modern Project architect?*

SANAA, headed by Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa, is a Tokyo-based, multiple award-winning architectural and design firm. SANAA was chosen as the 2010 Laureate of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, making Sejima the second female to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize. SANAA are working with the Australian firm Architectus as Executive Architect and a broader consultant team.

Who are the other consultants on the team?

The Sydney-based team includes architectural practice Architectus as Executive Architect and landscape architects McGregor Coxall. A full consultant team has been working with SANAA and the Gallery to complete the State Significant Development Application. The consultant team includes ARUP, WSP/Atelier Ten and Steensen Varming.

How did you choose the architects?

The Gallery undertook an invitation-only design competition endorsed by the Australian Institute of Architects and the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects. Twelve renowned Australian and international architectural practices submitted design ideas and following an anonymous judging process, five finalists were selected to proceed to the final design stage. The international competition jury unanimously selected SANAA as the preferred design architects.

Has the design changed from the competition-winning design?

For projects of this size and significance, it’s normal for the design to evolve over time with collaboration and input from a variety of stakeholders. This ensures the design results in the most appropriate use of the project site and meets the intended vision and aspirations.

The evolved design has allowed the Gallery to envision our expansion in a sustainable and efficient way, and deliver an art museum of the future that embraces the Gallery’s history and respects the land on which the existing Gallery stands. The Gallery is committed to achieving the best design, community, environmental and economic outcomes to enrich the cultural offering of Sydney and NSW, helping to raise Australia’s arts and culture profile.

The Gallery continues to work with SANAA and our key project partners on the evolution of the design concept. We look forward to sharing the final design concept and seeking further public feedback as part of the planned submission of our State Significant Development Application in the coming months.

How will you protect the Gallery’s heritage and green space around the site?

The heritage and environmental context of the Gallery’s existing building and its location next to the Domain and Royal Botanic Gardens have been key considerations during the evolution of the design concept. A range of sustainability initiatives will also contribute to the Gallery expansion achieving maximum possible environmental outcomes. This includes a 5-star Green Star rating under the Green Building Council of Australia’s Design and As-Built rating tool, which will make the Art Gallery of NSW the first public gallery in Australia to achieve this environmental standard.

Have you consulted with the community about the evolved design?
The evolved design has taken on-board feedback the Gallery has received to date and our consultation program will continue and broaden in the lead-up to the planned submission of a State Significant Development Application in the coming months.

Will the Gallery close during construction?

We plan to begin major construction in early 2019. While we may need to alter opening hours, the availability of certain collections and access to the building, we do not anticipate a need to close the Gallery during construction. If there are any changes to our operations during construction, we’ll ensure we communicate those changes to visitors and the community well in advance to minimise any impacts.

When will the new building open?

We are aiming to complete work by 2021, in time for the 150th anniversary of the Gallery’s founding in 1871 and the 100th anniversary of the Archibald Prize.

What happens next? When can I have my say?

The Gallery will continue to work closely with SANAA to evolve and finalise the design concept. The final design concept will be shared with the public for further feedback as part of a State Significant Development Application planned to be lodged in the coming months. More information will be shared on this website.

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If you have a question or feedback, select Sydney Modern Project under 'area of enquiry’ on the Gallery’s contact form